01/19/2006 12:00AM

Cascadians Cuttie win would give Root peace


PORTLAND, Ore. - Trainer Ben Root entered the new year with more than twice as many seconds as wins at the Portland Meadows meeting, and he had yet to win here with either of his two best horses - Silent Exploit and Cascadians Cuttie.

He has now won with nine of his last 17 starters, however, improving his record at the stand to 17 wins, 19 seconds, and 19 thirds from 98 starters. Among his recent winners was Silent Exploit, who scored a three-quarter-length victory over his former nemesis, Tamper, in last Saturday's Tall Ben Invitational Handicap at a mile. If Root can get Cascadians Cuttie to win this Saturday, when he will be heavily favored in the $15,000 OTBA Stallion Stakes, his back will be completely free of monkeys.

"Cascadians Cuttie is my last major frustration," said Root. "He has run three times at the meeting, and each time he ran second to Tom Two. Those races were worth more than $70,000 total, so Tom Two has really cost us a lot of money."

Tom Two, by the Washington-based stallion Free at Last, is not eligible for the six-furlong Stallion Stakes, which is restricted to the progeny of 19 nominated stallions. One of those stallions is Cascadian, the sire of Cascadians Cuttie.

"Cascadians Cuttie should be double tough without Tom Two in the field," said Root. "He was second by open lengths in each of his races here, so it should be his time to shine. The trick will be to keep him out of trouble, but he has enough speed to avoid traffic, and we plan to ask him to use his speed early. There is no sense in taking unnecessary risks when you have the best horse."

The top threat to Cascadians Cuttie might be Randy Rooter, a three-length winner in maiden-special-weight company in his only start, on Jan. 7. Randy Rooter, a 3-year-old son of Baquero, races for breeder, owner, and trainer Dr. Ryland Harwood.

"He'll be giving away a lot of experience, but I do think he is a very talented horse," said Harwood. "He is also very sensible, and Joe Crispin did a terrific job of breaking him for me. I thought he ran very professionally in his debut, so maybe his lack of experience won't hurt him too badly."

Though Harwood hopes for the best on Saturday, he feels that a more realistic goal for Randy Rooter might be the 1 1/16-mile McFadden Memorial for Oregon-bred 3-year-olds on March 11.

"His dam, Cargosita, was a nice middle-distance horse in Southern California, and I think he will take after her," he said. "He is a big horse, and he relaxes very well, so he really should be better routing. I found it very encouraging that he was able to break his maiden at first asking going 5 1/2 furlongs, because that really shouldn't be his best game. I think he just won on raw talent."

Quartern nears return to races

Another Ben Root trainee who should be making waves before long is Quartern, who worked for the sixth time last Saturday - five furlongs in 1:01.80, the third-fastest of 14 works at the distance, under exercise rider Jennifer Tooley.

Quartern, a 4-year-old daughter of Danjur, dominated her division here last season, winning 4 of 5 starts, including three stakes. She then ran third to allowance company at Emerald Downs in April before taking an extended vacation.

"She is coming along nicely," said Root. "She is still an ornery little thing. She didn't grow much. But she is very competitive, and she is eager to run. I hope to get a prep race for her at the end of the month, then run her in the Sweetheart Handicap on Feb. 11."

Quartern will have a surprise opponent in the six-furlong Sweetheart. Bullishdemands, a winner against older rivals in back-to-back stakes here in October and November, was scheduled to be turned out after running seventh as the 3-4 favorite in the City of Roses Handicap on Dec. 10, but there has been a change of plans.

"The owner was afraid she would hurt herself if we turned her out, so he wanted me to keep her here," said trainer Gene Davis. "She is just jogging now, but I'll crank her up again for the Sweetheart."